JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- While veterans are rounding into form and young arms are making their final charge in the campaign for a roster spot, Tim Cooney’s spring has been spent largely in the weight room and on the back fields.
The lefty has been fighting soreness in his throwing shoulder since the start of camp, and has followed a much slower timetable than his peers.
“It’s not how I envisioned it, but right now I’m just trying to be as forward-thinking as possible,” he said. “It definitely didn’t go how I planned, but if I can just learn from it and kind of keep chugging along, it will hopefully all straighten itself out.”
Cooney was expected to compete for a spot in the bullpen, but his early setbacks removed that possibility pretty quickly. The focus became his health, and heading off a potentially serious injury by focusing on strength and stability before his work continued.
“We’ve been doing a lot of new stuff this year. It can be a good learning experience where I can really prioritize arm health going forward. Not that I didn’t in the past, but you almost take it for granted when you’re healthy all the time,” he explained. “A lot of shoulder stability exercises, a lot of stuff with kettle bells, then we do a lot of stuff with the trainers with rotator cuff exercises. I don’t think it’s anything groundbreaking, but it’s focusing on the essentials and being conscious of form and stuff like that.”
The goal was to reduce arm soreness after he threw, allowing him to have a more natural recovery between outings.
Wednesday, he threw a 25-pitch live batting practice session on the back fields. His velocity was certainly there, even if his command wasn’t. However performance is a secondary concern at this point.
“Right now, that’s pretty much the only concern is that progressing arm strength. Just the ability to pitch without getting too sore. But it felt really good today, I’ll be anxious to see how it feels tomorrow. That’ll be pretty indicative of how it is,” Cooney said.
His recovery is something Cardinal fans should be tracking with interest, as the lefty provides the team a valuable and adaptable weapon. He rebounded from a rough MLB debut to give the team five starts in July, throwing 29 innings with a 2.48 ERA and a .206 opponent average. Lefties haven’t hit above .225 against him in the past two seasons.
If he can rebuild his strength and regain his form, he will join Marco Gonzales atop Memphis’ rotation; making the short list for spot starts and injury fill-ins, along with having bullpen candidacy. But Cooney is a control pitcher, and he has had very little time to refine his pitches thus far.
“My command is not great right now. It’s definitely not up to the standard of what everyone else is at right now because I haven’t got as much work, so I kind of have a little catching up to do,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic, I think I’m going to feel pretty good tomorrow.”
How he feels will determine his upcoming schedule. With innings becoming scarce in spring games, he’ll likely continue his work on the team’s practice fields and in minor league contests. Until then, he is at his body’s mercy.